Using fairy tales to dream up a better future in El Salvador

0


It’s showtime in the northeastern Salvadoran town of Cinquera. But the youths on stage, wearing animal masks and costumes, are hoping to do more than simply entertain the audience with their unique rendition of Tarzan. They want to make their families and peers think about equality, violence, and deeply ingrained attitudes around gender.

The show, written by the young people on stage during a storytelling camp in small towns across El Salvador last fall, is part of a workshop on modernizing classic tales in a way that reflects the kind of world these youths would like to live in.

Why We Wrote This

Fairy tales and traditional stories can teach important lessons – but they can also feel outdated. In El Salvador, where gender stereotypes are deeply ingrained, giving youths a chance to modernize these tales is opening up conversations about consent, security, and equality.

El Salvador has sky-high rates of femicides (the murder of women based on their gender) and worrying school dropout numbers. Rewriting a traditional fairy tale is far from a silver bullet solution to El Salvador’s towering challenges, but empowering the next generation to imagine a more just and equal world can make lasting waves, participants and organizers say.

Creative play focused on shifting gender stereotypes can “sow a little seed, so that when [participants] are adults they can start to break … patterns,” says Heydi Gómez, part of the local Association for Municipal Development and Reconstruction.

At 5 p.m. on a Saturday in late November, a group of jittery kids and teens crowd the pavilion in the central square of this small town in northeastern El Salvador. They’re staging an entirely new version of the story of Tarzan – rewritten and adapted by the young actors to reflect the way they’d like to see themes of equality and opportunity play out in their own lives.

In this version of the classic tale, which is graced with the natural sound and set design of squawking grackles and Cinquera’s colorful sunset, the years have passed. The time has come for the retirement of Tarzan, the protector of the jungle. In front of the animal council, he proposes that his child replace him.

“Tradition dictates that your son should succeed you,” a gorilla scolds him. “But you only have a daughter.”

Why We Wrote This

Fairy tales and traditional stories can teach important lessons – but they can also feel outdated. In El Salvador, where gender stereotypes are deeply ingrained, giving youths a chance to modernize these tales is opening up conversations about consent, security, and equality.

Tarzan, played by Erick, a gangling boy with a quiet voice, responds: “And what’s wrong with her? Can’t Tarzana do what I do?”

But it’s not just the man of the house doing the talking. Tarzana, played by a spirited 10-year-old named Monica, pushes back, too: “Why am I being put to the test when I have lived here all my life?”

It’s a question most of the youths on stage have asked themselves at one point in a town – and nation – where gender stereotypes, machismo, and gender-based violence run rampant. Questioning norms around what a girl or boy “can” do based on their gender, whether it’s playing with baby dolls or pursuing one’s studies, is a key part of the Comprehensive Childhood Development Project. The group has been running storytelling workshops in small towns across northeastern El Salvador over the past year to address sensitive issues for young people, like violence.

El Salvador has sky-high rates of femicides (the killing of a woman due to her gender) and worrying school dropout numbers. In 2021, an estimated 16 girls between the ages of 10 and 17 became pregnant each day, according to the Observatory of Girlhood and Adolescence. It was statistics like these, and a lived culture of old-fashioned gender ideals, that drove a group of community leaders and local librarians, in partnership with international nongovernmental organizations, to introduce the storytelling program to Cinquera and surrounding towns. Rewriting a traditional fairy tale is far from a silver bullet solution to El Salvador’s towering challenges, but empowering the next generation of citizens and leaders to imagine and build a more just and equal world can make lasting waves, participants and organizers say.

Mahé Elipe/Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Allison Michelle rehearses in San Nicolás, El Salvador, on Nov. 24, 2022. She plays Little Red Riding Hood in a version of the fairy tale that was reinterpreted to take a gender perspective into consideration.

Storytelling workshops and creative play focused on shifting gender stereotypes can “sow a little seed, so that when [participants] are adults they can start to break those patterns,” says Heydi Gómez, part of the local Association for Municipal Development and Reconstruction.



Source link

Comments

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More